2014-03-21 03:01 AM
HOLLYWOOD, Florida (AP) -- Heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko delivered a message to Russia President Vladimir Putin on Thursday, saying it's important not to "repeat the mistakes of history" concerning the crisis in his native Ukraine.
Klitschko, the brother of opposition leader Vitali Klitschko, is training in Florida for the defence of his WBA and IBF titles in April. He sat before a Ukrainian flag at a news conference, wearing a white T-shirt with his country's name and logo.
"You cannot repeat the mistakes of history, and there were a lot of mistakes," Klitschko said when asked about his message to Putin.
Klitschko said he feels sadness about the months of protests and sporadic violence in his country, and his "mind is over there, my body is here."
Russian forces effectively took control of Crimea about two weeks ago after the ouster of Ukraine's pro-Russia president, Viktor Yanukovych. Klitschko's brother gave up boxing to run for president in Ukraine, where elections are scheduled for May 25.
"He's representing me in a certain way over there and I'm representing him in a certain way over here," said Klitschko, who speaks with his brother daily. "But I know, as Nelson Mandela said, 'Sport has the power to change the world.' And I believe in that very strongly."
Klitschko stressed there was only one path to peace.
"There is, by no means, no way, a military solution," he said. "It's all about diplomacy and good politics because nobody can return the lost loves.
"I just hope with all the international presence and awareness, certain steps from the political and diplomatic side will put the legal question into place."
Klitschko, who turns 38 on Tuesday, spoke following a workout for the April 26 title bout with Alex Leapai in Germany. He plans to travel to Austria on Saturday for more training and return to Ukraine after the fight.
He said his athletic career helps him deal with the crisis in his homeland.
"It's disappointment, it's anger, it's being worried. It's a combination of all, you can imagine," he said. "There's a lot of emotions, but I understand. It's like in a boxing match, if you get too emotional, you're definitely going to produce mistakes that are eventually going to cause more damage."